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4.6.19 Today’s word is “catfish”.
4.5.29 The interesting thing about Triodes (5.25) is that it provoked the same feeling, and reaction, in me as enthralling music. I’m thinking specifically of Beethoven, a couple of his symphonies. I get a different reaction to, for example, Gorecki’s third, Schnittke’s first, etc..

Music uses powerful non–verbal forms of sound to communicate emotion. It has a very specific language which I do not know; like most people, I understand the gist without knowing the detailed syntax. I did not realise until I read Prynne that poetry could do the same. He’s pointed out, by example, that words can communicate like music; verbs can be used to communicate on a level that I’d thought was exclusively non–verbal.

Poetry has always incorporated techniques of music to achieve poetic effect; for example, alliteration and rhyme. But these are secondary techniques to emphasize, counter or otherwise comment on the words. Prynne has used words alone to create an effect I’ve identified, until now, as exclusively musical.

I’m pretty ignorant of poetry history, especially outside English, so the fact that I’ve never encountered poetry with this effect before, nor heard of any, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But, so far as I know, what Prynne is doing is revolutionary.
5.25 I’ve just bought of a copy of JH Prynne’s Furtherance (from Peter Riley), published in the USA by The Figures, containing his four most recent chapbooks before Acrylic Tips.

I’ve just read half of Triodes. It has had an immediate, ecstatic impact on me. I haven’t a clue what it means, but then the first time I heard Ligeti’s Atmospheres (that music in Kubrick’s 2001), I didn’t have a clue what that meant, either. Prynne has found a way to use language to communicate with the non–verbal impact of music, and I don’t know how he does it, the bastard, and I wish I could do it right now. No poet has done this to me before. This poem has an immediate impact, and I know, instinctively, that I’ll be able to keep coming back to it for the rest of my life and find something more in it.

You must have some piece of music that has a special impact on you. You knew when you first heard it that it was special, and you knew even then that the impact would last. Me, I’m thinking of Mike Oldfield’s guitar solo in David Bedford’s orchestral suite “Star’s End”: a sudden, stunningly different and unexpected, but bloody obvious highlight. Half a reading of Triodes has done the same to me.

And this is not the first time this poet has walloped me.

Prynne hits me on the instinctive level, he hits me on the intellect. I’m beginning to realise he’s one of the greats.
4.5.24 In the UK, speed cameras are large yellow boxes slouching alongside many roads. I used to dislike them: people speed, see them, slow down, pass them, and accelerate again.

But now I’ve thought about it, and become pro speed camera. They are so damned obvious. If someone is caught speeding past something so clearly there as a bright yellow speed camera ten feet off the ground on a stick, then they can’t have been paying attention. And if they’re not paying attention to the road, and they’re speeding, then they’re a crap driver and deserve the sharp rap of the law.
4.5.21 Wandering around the web—oh, alright, in a fit of ego, I wanted to see whether any sites mentioned me. Much of the stuff out there, not surprisingly, refers to other guys who share the name with me. The majority, though, are written by people who couldn’t be bothered to check the names of the kids who committed the Columbine massacre (Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris). It doesn’t give me a warm feeling, knowing the main reason my name is on the web is other people’s stupidity.

But I had a couple of pleasant surprises. I am named in the original BBC Micro ROM. I am quoted at the head of the chapter Coding and the Structure of code in the book Software: a fine art. There are a few references for past activities, such as Hacking Times (a diplomacy magazine), CommUnity, and stuff you’ll find elsewhere on this site. Ok, not exactly earth shattering, but at least I exist. The warmest feeling comes from the couple of places my poetry has been quoted and attributed. I won’t quote them here; they’re in forums, soon to vanish.
4.5.18 I helped Tom Sheerin, the publisher of Firewater Press, put together the new collection of Glen’s poetry. His work is traditional contemporary poetry, he stretches no boundaries. But a couple of the poems in this new volume represent the finest verse in the traditional form that I’ve met for a long time. I look forward to reading his volume properly, rather than concentrating on walloping the Tom’s word processing software to produce a vaguely correctly formatted chapbook.
4.4.30 Last week’s CCCP 14 (23rd—25th April) was good, even if, in a fit of financial incompetence, I failed to get paid beforehand so had to beg money off participants to spend down the pub afterwards. Apologies to all those tugged, especially Keston Sutherland and the organisers.

I didn’t find this years CCCP so exciting as that last year, mainly because last year was my first time. I’m not writing a review; immediately after the conference I caught a nasty head cold which reduced my brain to dim song. I lost my notes and forgot what I’d seen. Well, expect for what’s here.

Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson presented work from their translation of Immanent Visitor: The Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz. My God, was I impressed.

David Bromage presented intelligent poems from his recent collections. He is clearly held in great respect by most of the audience, although he was completely new to the ignorant me. His poetry has great depth. He tops my follow up list.

My first problem was Richard Burns’ “The Manager”. The performance, although excellent, lasted too long. I expected twenty minutes, I got an hour and a half. Unfortunately, it highlighted some weaknesses in the poem, which I fear needs the challenge of an acerbic editor. Burns must have used poor rhyming for effect, but I found it counterproductive. This poem remains impressive commentary on the attitudes of the Thatcher era.

My second problem was the translation of Astrid Lampe’s work was not just incomplete, it wasn’t even started. The result was shambolic. I felt truly sorry for Lampe. Her work deserves proper attention. In the end, Dutch speakers on the floor joined Lampe and Kevin Nolan on stage to translate the poetry on the fly. It was interesting to see how translators worked, but the arguments over the meanings of Dutch words and the thrown off–the–cuff translations of her devious and clever poetry informed me nothing. This event was as subtle as stabbing. I do hope they invite her back next year and do the job properly. Here they are, published online by fascicle.

I remember being impressed with a number of other poets, but that damned head cold means I haven’t a clue who they are. Apologies.

As a personal aside, I wish, I wish, I had taken the opportunity to read one of my poems in the open–mic session. My problem remains a lack of confidence reciting to such an impressive audience.
4.2.27 Today, on BBC Radio 4, is about to broadcast a short piece about “an obscure Cambridge don who might be able to claim to be the most influential poet of the late 20th century”. I can only think that it’s Prynne—so I’m uploading a half–written review of Acrylic Tips right now, just to get something in first.

It was, it was, it was!
4.2.6 I’ll happily admit that half the reason I nipped down to Oxford’s Balliol College last night was so I could ‘accidentally’ mention it into pub conversations for the next few weeks. This opportunism is mostly ego, but can’t be unconnected with Wednesday’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s enjoyable magazine section satire, “The Sunday Format”, which took the piss out of journalists with a similar weakness.

My visit was for the launch of Scrawl 7, Balliol’s student poetry magazine. It welcomes outside contributions, and has kindly published chase chase. My hosts for the evening were the magazine’s two student editors, Ali Chetwynd and Richard Stanton.

Of course, being Oxford, it was full of extremely intelligent and knowledgeable students. In the bar conversation afterwards, I don’t think I made too much of an arse of myself. I enthused, at those poor editors, about Cambridge modernists, and pursued my current wish to find a survey of the grammatical structure of languages (I want apply different but real grammars to English language poetry and see what comes out). It was good to discuss things like music, poetry, and linguistics with people who knew, who understood, who didn’t need a twenty minute explanation first.

Talking about Radio 4, I shouldn’t have been surprised that an old occasional drinking buddy from my Liberal Club days, one Mark Tavener, turns out to be the writer of the biting political satire “Absolute Power”. I recognised his voice this morning when he was being interviewed about post–Hutton cuts in the first edition of the new series. I knew him when he was writing, then trying to get published, his first book, “In The Red” (Hutchinson), which was subsequently successfully broadcast by BBC Radio 4 comedy.
4.1.19 I decided, a few days ago, to put copies of the poems from my old, and now deceased, Amstrad 1512, into my version control database, for completeness. I hadn’t transcribed a lot of them to my first demon site, which I built ten years ago? The ones I omitted are the ones I felt were bad. I didn’t understand a lot of those poems then, and I didn’t understand them when I wrote them in the 1980s, so I discarded them.

Thank God that something, a self–humility, an awareness of the imperfection of judgement, prevented me from throwing them away. Now I’ve aged, my poetry has matured, and, in some cases, such as Spreading Strands, I like what I see. It’s got obvious flaws, but there’s something interesting going on there. I still think some others are crap, mind you, but most of them are here.

Never, never, throw away those dreadful poems. It may be they’re actually pretty good, but you don’t understand them yourself. The part of you that creates, and the part of you that judges, are not the same, can never be together. For your own health, the judge must indulge the creator.
4.1.12 I’ve been talking to an interesting young woman sub online for a while now. She got cut off from the net for a few months, but phoned me a few days ago. I think the silence was genuine.There’s clearly something there, otherwise she wouldn’t have got back in touch with me after those months. But she does’t want to meet up. It’s not as simple as shyness, although I think that’s part of it. There’s another reason.

But I’m just not interested in distance relationships. I need to see the woman, touch her, watch her, see her body language, smell her chemistry. I need the presence. Online relationships, whether electronic, over the phone, chat room based, whatever, are ultimately unfulfilling.

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